Tag Archives: The Reporter

Cheese Deluxe: Mercer Island in the 60s

A few months ago I heard about a book called Cheese Deluxe, a memoir of living on Mercer Island as a teenager in the 60s.

For having bought a book based solely on the setting, I got lucky. Greg Palmer, the author, creates a cast of characters (many of whom he says are based on real people) and follows them through a series of loosely-connected stories. That’s probably a better way of expressing high school life than presenting a tight story arc. Palmer isn’t afraid of poking some taboos now and then, like in the first chapter when he describes a Boy of the Month nomination that was aborted over a misunderstanding of fairies.

Island Books apparently had the author in the store back in December, but I missed it. There’s a nice video in the MI Reporter article of Greg reading from the book. Of the people on whom the characters were based, “a few are here tonight.”

It’s worth reading, even if unlike me you aren’t hung on on wondering what places looked like in past decades. You can get it on Amazon.

Start Planning Your 2020 (or 2023) Commute

Since a majority of us approved Prop 1, Mercer Island will get a light rail station by 2020. Per the Reporter, light rail will replace the express lanes on the center of the three roadways. The system map:

Green line, you’re looking good. From MassTransitNow.

Before You Make Any Firm Plans

Before light rail can come here, HOV lanes need to be added to I-90’s outer roadways. According to the WSDOT’s website, that’s not going to happen til 2023 (end of Phase 3). So either the HOV lanes get sped up, or move out your commute planning a few years. You may retire before your light-rail-enabled commuting plans see any action. Or maybe the world will end in 2012.

I wonder if we’ll get new parking for the train? Mercer Island’s P&R parking is already full, as you know if you read this blog or try to park there.

News From Our Green-Line Friends

Slog, the Stranger’s blog, reports the planned Capitol Hill light rail station is meeting some resistance on the grounds that about 70 trees will be cut down for the station. Really, the best thing about this post is the comments that refer to the slanted photos of trees. “Isn’t it a bigger deal that gravity has somehow warped atop Capitol Hill? …. I’m worried about all the hipsters sliding across Broadway.” Heh.

Mercer Island, being a respectable neighborhood, has a blog that gives you level photos of trees. More or less.

Bonus Link

In celebration of a new rail system for Seattle, here’s a photo of Seattle’s 1929 rail depot from one of my favorites local blogs, Vintage Seattle.

Around-the-Island Roundup

Blogs and opinions on the Island:

Simon Medisch took some nice photos of the leaves changing in North Island.

The Mercer Island Reported says Islanders hate the idea of I-90 tolls.

And finally, Richard Sprague continues his informative series on the election:

Simon’s right– the leaves are changing.

UPDATE: Check out this 30-second exposure of cars coming to and from the MI, by Shutter Eye.

Mercer Island’s Permit for Tent City: Not All Sausage is Good Sausage

Update: Yesterday (July 28th) the Mercer Island Reporter reported that the restraining order against Tent City had been denied.

I’ve been writing about Tent City and trying to put on this blog relevant information, like posting the website on all the fliers up around town, or a video of images from a former encampment.

But some of our neighbors have been much more involved than I. They’ve been to the City Council planning meetings and researched past encampments. They’re saying it’s the process as much as the concept of Tent City that riles them: that the Temporary Use Permit (TUP) was drafted in private and doesn’t include necessary safeguards.

Whatever your thoughts on Tent City, we’ve got to decide issues like this openly. Like any public act- building a highway, for example- people need to have a say early enough to influence the outcome.

So I’m going to turn over this blog to one of those neighbors. This was written by Tara Johnson, apparently to the City Council. The chart below is hers also.

Click for pdf

Please see the below examples. There are many more requirements that are discussed in the spreadsheet that I provided to you last night [MI blogger: at the City Council Meeting on July 7; see the minutes] but here are a few I would like to touch on:

Zoning Code Supports Permit- In all of the other Cities they have specific code or ordinances that support a Temporary Use Agreement for an encampment. We clearly know that Mercer Island does NOT have anything in our municipal code to support this agreement. Why is this critical? Our Municipal code protects our City and our Residents. If we don’t follow the rules there our financial and criminal implications. What happens if Tent City doesn’t follow the agreement? Nothing. That brings me to the next point…

Penalties for Violating the Code or Agreement-

  • Bellevue- Misdemeanor and civil violation LUC 20.40.460.
  • Issaquah- Misdemeanor-$5K Fine and up to 1 Year in prison IMC5.14.090. Kirkland- Civil Infraction- KZC 170.40.
  • Mercer Island- 14 days notice so they can correct their mistakes? No Financial or Criminal implications?

Liability Insurance-

  • Bellevue required liability Insurance between St. Luke and SHARE/WHEEL- 20.30U121.A.2,
  • Bothell required it under the director’s Discretion Municipal Code 12.06.160 (B)(3)(f2),
  • Issaquah required it under their special event permit condition #7 5.14.050(8)&(10).
  • Mercer Island-No requirement. Our agreement has a “hold harmless clause” for the City however, you left the Church and the neighbors hung out to dry. How thoughtful.

Security log or local police involvement-

  • Bellevue- Pastor Kidd (St. Luke’s) required to keep overnight resident log per the permit LUC 20.30U.121.A.1#5.
  • Bothell-Applicant shall keep log of all individuals who stay overnight-Transitory Accommodations.
  • Redmond- All background checks for new residents of TC shall be processed by Redmond Police-St. Jude’s Permit 12.21.2006 approval conditions #8.
  • Woodinville-Warrant checks shall include a record that lists the case identification number and time of a call-Ordinance 417 21.08.030B.
  • Mercer Island-Nothing.

Specific Health and Safety Requirements-

  • Yes, Mercer Island does mention in their Temporary Use Agreement that Tent City needs to allow for inspections by King County Health Department but I am talking about SPECIFICS.
  • Bellevue- Sewage and Waste Water Disposal, Hand washing and bathing requirements, specific disease prevention, refuse requirement and toilet requirements- 20.30U124.A.11.A-J.
  • Bothell- Showers or other bathing facilities shall be provided where warranted based on duration of operation of the transitory accommodation. Drinking water and solid waste requirements. An adequate supply of portable water shall be available on-site at all times. Adequate toilet facilities shall be provided on-site. Trash requirements- Trans. Accommodation Health and Safety Criteria iv & v.,
  • Issaquah- garbage/recycling should be stored 30ft. from Tent City or Canopy SPE07-000322 Public Works Operating Conditions k. Kirkland- No animals shall be permitted in encampment except service animals- KZC Section 127.25.2 #10. Redmond- Dumpsters are to be emptied twice a week and portable toilets 3 times a week RCDG 20F.40.170-040-Decision Criteria C.
  • Woodinville- Specific health requirements-ordinance 417 21.08.030B Development conditions h & i.
  • Mercer Island- No Specific Requirements.

The specific health and safety requirements that other Cities have included in their permits and ordinances are designed to prevent the spread of disease. They are designed to protect the homeless and the neighbors.

Stated Process for People Evicted or Turned away from Tent City-

  • Bellevue, Bothell, Kirkland and Woodinville all have written processes in their agreements or ordinances.
  • Mercer Island has nothing. Issaquah also does not have a stated process and at the Council meeting last night you were able hear of the crimes that were committed when individuals with lengthy criminal records were turned loose into the neighborhoods. What makes you think that Tent City will follow their policy for escorting people to the bus? They obviously didn’t in Issaquah or Kirkland.

Based on the police reports we have gathered (another 24 police reports were picked up from Redmond yesterday) unless a City has a stated policy in their permit or ordinance and repercussions for not following the stated policy, Tent City does not follow their own rules. I urge you to look at the binders we provided to you last night with the police reports and criminal records of the suspects. The crimes are shocking and the criminal records are frightening. Our Temporary Use Agreement has major holes and does nothing to protect the neighbors that elected YOU to look after our best interests.

I spoke with Chief Holmes last night and he acknowledged that the crime statistics the Kirkland Police Chief provided him were not correct. He at least will acknowledge a mistake was made. You have put our Police department in a difficult position. You are setting them up to fail. Our City is much smaller than Bellevue, Bothell, Issaquah, Kirkland, Redmond and Woodinville. We don’t have the police force that these other Cities have. At the very LEAST you could have approved a Temporary Use Agreement that made the job of Chief Holmes and his staff a little easier. You could have given your community Due Process and allowed us to help construct an ordinance that protects the best interests of the Mercer Island residents, our Churches, and the homeless people living in Tent City.

The saddest part about the way you and the other Councilmen have handled this process is that NO one has benefited from your actions. The Churches and neighbors are divided and the homeless have lost out. The homeless in Tent City are pawns for SHARE’s political agenda. At least other Cities have recognized this and fought this organization. When Tent City did come to their City they tried to offer protection for the homeless through their health and fire regulations and provide safety and accountability to the neighbors with their liability and police requirements. Drafting an ordinance after the fact is pointless. Let’s be pro-active and amend the Temporary Use Agreement before a tragedy happens in our City.

Thank you,

Tara Johnson

Not all sausage is good sausage..

Tent City: Not Suffering from Lack of Controversy

All over the Island, these flyers have gone up over the last couple of weeks:

Flyer for Tent City, Mercer Island

Flyer for Tent City, Mercer Island

On Thursday night, our potential new neighbors found 170 people at the United Methodist Church to discuss their arrival, 25 of whom filed a lawsuit the next day.

On the flyer above, the first link redirects to the second, which makes me think that merceris.com isn’t a local organization but a local-sounding name for tentcitysolutions.com. The headlines on that site call out the fears a lot of residents have about Tent City: “Crime follows Tent City to yet another community.”

Whatever your personal thoughts on Tent City, get ready for some controversy. I predict this isn’t going to go quietly, on either side.

Tent City: Reflection of Common Humanity or Unwelcome Squatters?

The Mercer Island Reporter reports, as reporting is its mission and namesake, that Tent City IV is coming to Mercer Island Methodist in August. Tent City is a semi-permanent, organized camp of homeless people that moves every few months to a new location. The idea is to provide services and housing for those who are trying to get on their feet. Tent City is always invited by its host, usually a church, but oftentimes the neighbors of the host organization are less welcoming. Here’s a photo of Tent City III at St. Mark’s in Seattle:

Photo credit: Bjornb on Flickr.

Some readers may now be thinking, “I like the idea of helping other people, but how close will Tent City be to me?” it’s about as far away from most of Mercer Island as you can get and still be on Mercer Island:

The United Methodist Church will host Tent City on Mercer Island. Just like those Methodists: always helping others!

NPR ran a story on Tent City, weighing the pros and cons. The story’s worth listening to, but here’s my summary:

  • Pro: Tent city provides a path from homelessness to self-sufficiency.
  • Con: It’s a band-aid that doesn’t solve any long-term problems.

Because life is rich and complicated, the answer must be a little of both: the Tent City concept is darkly wise and rudely great. I tend to believe that even in its imperfections, Tent City is one of the better attempts to solve a difficult problem. Other viewpoints, as always, are welcome here. Feel free to use the handy “Leave a Comment” feature to express yours.

More Traffic Lights on the Island? And a Roundabout

The Mercer Island Reporter reports that the council is considering two new lights downtown, at 27th and 77th and 78th. Not to overdramatize the situation, but our 4-light island is threatening to turn into a teeming metropolis of tense, sweaty people trapped in cars! Actually, the new lights sound like a good idea. But blinking red at off-hours, please.

The article also contains a review of what was, apparently, a very lengthy debate over the options at Island Crest Way and Merrimount:

  1. keep the current four-lane configuration, which would require an expansive expansion;
  2. or use three lanes only, with two travel lanes and a center turn lane. The three-lane configuration would extend to 42nd st.

Recap: council leans toward center lane.

As someone who will probably spend up to eight full days of my life trying to take a left on Island Crest Way, I applaud that leaning and hope it will crystallize into a decision.

Even my husband, who drives swiftly and curses at speed-impaired drivers, says Island Crest needs to slow down- it’s frikkin’ crazy. He suggests a roundabout there. Oh, and some trees down the middle so it doesn’t look like a concrete highway.

Any passionate convictions out there? Four-lane option, three-lane option, or roundabout?

Mercer Island Traffic Photo credit: Roomman on Flickr.

Let’s Go to a Show

It’s theater time on Mercer Island, with two productions open now or soon. Bat Boy, at Mercer Island High School, is about a vampire boy. When John Hopkins did it, they called it “a musical with some guts.” Ouch. Anyway, the show was originally an off-broadway musical, and it’s been banned at some schools, which means it’ll probably be pretty good. Dates and tickets.


The Monkey King is a Chinese play being performed at Youth Theater Northwest. There’s a great clip from the Beijing Opera on YouTube. If the kids can do half of that, they’re pretty talented. And I’ll give them plenty of room on the sidewalk if I see them. Running til May 10; get tickets.

Band and Sports

Music on Mercer is still looking for band students for their summer program. And we’ve got a couple of sports programs I’m more than a bit late on- there was registration for the Mercer Island Youth Soccer club on May 4th, but it looks like you can still go to the website and register.

Girls Water Polo Water Polo: not reported in time to drive attendance on May 2.

And finally, I’m really in deep water on this one, but I didn’t make the goal of getting this game on May 2 on the blog in time. Luckily Mercer Island girls Water Polo has a great website with a calendar.

On the Definitive Authority of the Mercer Island Bulletin Board

I’ve seen some other signs pop up over Mercer Island, in other locations than Island Crest Way and 40th– most notably at ICW at 68th, and occasionally across from the Post Office. In the opinion of this blogger, these are not definitive Bulletin Board locations, for the simple reason that I don’t pass by them regularly and therefore it would be hard to post them here. Other bloggers with more convenient locations can claim them and then we can have a lively debate over the definitive authority of each Bulletin Board location.

Nonsequiter: Keeping Mercer Island History Real

And finally, congratulations to Mercer Island’s Phil Flash. According to the Mercer Island Reporter:

Last Tuesday, Flash was given the Willard Jue Memorial Award by the Association of King County Historical Organizations, or AKCHO, for his persistence, devotion and enthusiastic work in preserving Mercer Island’s historic legacy.

Thanks Phil! I love Mercer Island history, and you’re keeping it real. Richard Sprague suggested I get in touch with you a while back, and I’ll try harder because I went and got married instead.

Yes Schools Yes Gets a Yes

According to the Mercer Island Reporter, the schools levy that campaigned so aggressively at the Mercer Island Bulletin Board passed.

Bulletin board 2008-2-11
Nice work, Yes Schools Yes! Who doesn’t like capital facilities and technology for schools?

850 Homes Left

Following up on Two Trees Down, Five Houses Up: The Mercer Island Reporter wrote that there are 270 developable acres left on Mercer Island, and the Island can hold 850 more living units before it reaches its maximum. This includes 203 homes on 66 undeveloped acres and 653 homes on 275 redevelopable acres.

Mercer Island’s Comprehensive Plan, last revised in 2004, said that the Island could accommodate 2,271 new houses, which seemed like a lot to me. The Reporter article also states that the total housing capacity for the Island in 2006 was 1,765 units, and only 10 net new homes were added last year if you account for the ones that were knocked down. That leaves 1,755 units in capacity, not the 850 reported in the same article.

I’ll be honest, the figures are a little hard to get through, and I’m a quant-head. But maybe that’s because it’s still early on a Saturday morning. I’d like to know if it’s 850 or 1,765, since that probably affects whether I’ll be able to take a left on Island Crest Way in the morning to get to work.

In any case, Redfin shows 32 new construction homes for sale in Mercer Island right now, with an average price of $2,472,500. To my surprise, only two are condos, despite all the cranes that you can see around the North Shopping Center.

Mercer Island New Construction Homes

For a look at some of the new construction going up in Mercer Island, see this $2.65 million mansion on 45th, which kind of looks like a church to me, or this $3.75 million home on E. Mercer Way. Notice the bathrobes in the 8th picture on the E. Mercer Way house- if it’s new construction, whose bathrobes are those? The most expensive new home on Mercer Island goes for $31 million, on 3 acres with waterfornt, on the south end. The address is not disclosed.